Middlesex spinner may have to bide his time in battle to regain Twenty20 place
Ollie Rayner admits he may need to be patient as he battles to force his way back into Middlesex’s one-day side.
Rayner has yet to play any part in this season’s NatWest T20 Blast, even though fellow spinner Ravi Patel is currently out of action with a thumb injury.
Instead, Middlesex have handed leg-spinning second XI player Nathan Sowter the job of offering variety from their seam attack in T20 cricket, with Rayner restricted to County Championship appearances only.
However, the 29-year-old says he is happy with his performances – and he remains confident of widening his repertoire as the season progresses and pitches begin to show signs of wear and tear.
“I won’t lie, I would like to be playing in the T20 side,” said Rayner. “I’m not going to say I’m happy with that situation and I don’t think anyone would respect me if I said I was.
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“I came here to play all formats of the game, I think I’m capable of playing all formats and I want to succeed – but I’ve got to go with what the club decide and bide my time.
“When we start playing on a few more used wickets, the club might go with two spinners, so we’ll have to see how that goes. We’ve got a big squad here and this is all part of the competition.
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“My bowling feels much closer to where it was two years ago. I’ve picked up a few wickets here and there and generally I’m not really going for many runs.
“I’ve also made a few adjustments to my batting, which I feel have been beneficial – even though I haven’t got over 30 yet – and I don’t feel out of nick, I feel good.”
Rayner, whose performances at the end of the 2013 campaign earned him a place in the England Lions squad, has also been heartened by the recent re-emergence of Middlesex team-mate James Harris.
Harris endured a difficult spell last year, when he struggled with form and injury and was loaned back to former club Glamorgan – but the seamer has made a major impact at Lord’s this season and is Middlesex’s leading wicket-taker.
“I’m glad James has done so well, because both of us had an iffy season last year and we worked our proverbials off to put that right during the winter,” said Rayner.
“It seems to be paying off for him and I actually feel it’s paid off for me as well but, when the pitches are more conducive [to spin], that’ll be the time it’ll tell.
“I told him he’s welcome to take all the wickets now, then when it gets to August he can put his feet up and I’ll take over – at least that’s the plan!
“Also, I feel the captaincy has helped me in that Frankie [James Franklin] has put a lot of faith in me and so did Adam Voges before him, which made me feel a lot more confident about myself and what I’m doing.”
Confidence has been an important factor not just for Rayner, but the rest of the squad in recent years – and last season a horrendous T20 campaign appeared to drain the feel-good factor completely from the Lord’s side.
Having slumped from being genuine County Championship contenders at this stage of the summer to narrowly escaping relegation in September, Middlesex are determined to avoid a repeat performance.
Despite successive T20 defeats at Hampshire and Glamorgan last week, they remain very much in contention to qualify from the South group as they begin a run of four home fixtures, starting against Gloucestershire at Richmond on Sunday (2.30pm).
“We’ve put a lot of effort into our one-day stuff,” added Rayner. “Last year was a bad year – let’s not sugar-coat it – and, coming back after that period when we didn’t do well, it kind of rubbed off on our four-day form.
“As fans you might think ‘we’ve been here before’ but, as players, we’ve tried to put it out of our minds and we’re thinking about the other end of the table this year and we feel good.
“What’s encouraging is I don’t think we’ve been at our best yet. We hope to get through the one-day period, do a lot better than we have done in the past and go on to something big this season.”